Arrival in Shanghai

March 16 2016

I am told that the plethora of good things that come my way is unfair.  I have just come to expect luck to be on my side.  For example, yesterday, I lost my phone in the airport.  I knew it was found and didn’t worry, so I calmly called myself and heard someone else answer.  Then, when I walked onto the plane and was given a new seat: in first class, with fully reclining seats, I was extremely grateful, but not surprised.  What I was surprised to find out was that my flight was 12 hours long!  (I didn’t pay attention to this detail before …)

In first class, they greeted me with a mimosa and pajamas.  So, I put on the pajamas.  Shortly into the flight, one-by-one, the flight attendants came over to check out the new Delta pajamas (turns out I was the only one who put them on, and this was the first flight that they offered them on!)  As usual, I befriended the entire cabin crew before the end of the 12 hour flight, and now I have super-comfy new PJs.

The food was super good in the first class cabin: smoked trout appetizer, a lamb dinner, and an ice cream bar (which I opted out of).  There were a few other things too.  The chair fully reclined, and was more comfortable than most hotel beds that I’ve slept in.

Then, I arrived in Shanghai and took a bus from one airport to another (about 1 hour bus ride). On this bus ride, I saw the largest billboard that I have ever seen.  It was about five times as tall as billboards usually are wide.  And, it hung over the highway, where there were three or four lanes of traffic in each direction and a huge median.

And, finally, after checking into my hotel, I ordered my first authentic (as authentic as an airport hotel restaurant that also serves pizza can be) Chinese dish: Shanghai food is meat of chaos.  It was quite yummy.  :)

I Love You!

January 27 2016

Being fully in the moment is something that I strive for, but have not quite yet mastered.  Sometimes, I just go on auto-pilot, driving home without remembering making the last three turns, talking to a friend then forgetting what the conversation was about, committing changes without paying attention to the error messages … but, the most surprising was a few years ago …

My friend Justin was over my house and my boss called, so, of course, I answer it.  We had a brief, to-the-point, conversation, which I ended with “ok, I love you. bye” and hung up.  Justin was looking at me with his jaw dropped when I turned back to him to resume our conversation before the phone call.  Not sure why he was so shocked, I asked “is everything ok?” “did you just get off the phone with your boss?” “yes, why?” “did you tell him that you loved him?”  … whoops … (I really wonder how my boss responded to this now).

Today, I struck again.  I made a few phone calls as I was walking from my office to my car.  First, I called David.  He answered, but he was too busy working on something to talk for long.  Second, I called Amit.  He didn’t answer, so I left a message: “Hi doctor, it’s me!  Where are you?  I miss you.  Ok, well, I love you, buh bye!” I thought I was leaving a message for David! Luckily, Amit called me back before listening to that message.

Pumpkin Season!

November 23 2015

I love pumpkin.  So, when fall treats are pumpkin-flavored, I go overboard.  A few weeks ago, I bought pureed pumpkin from Costco (it’s just pumpkin in those cans!)  I’ve been dreaming about what to make, until yesterday morning when I had pancakes after the BRC run … that is when I decided that I wanted to make vegan pumpkin pancakes!  Oh, and they were delicious.

Wet Ingredients:

  1. 3 cups soy milk
  2. 2 cups pumpkin
  3. 1 (frozen) banana
  4. 1 teaspoon almond extract

Dry Ingredients:

  1. 4 cups all purpose flour
  2. 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  3. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  6. 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 Tablespoon nutmeg / allspice mix (I ground 1 nutmeg + 10 allspice and scooped 1 Tablespoon from that mixture)

I put the dry ingredients in the kitchen-aid mixing bowl, and the wet ingredients in a bowl that had a pouring spout.  After mixing the wet ingredients together, I realized I didn’t have any maple syrup, so I called the baking hotline … aka Alana … who told me to just mix it all and leave it in the fridge while I run to the store.  She says pancakes get fluffier if the batter is left sitting in the fridge for a few hours (or even overnight).  So, I slowly poured the wet ingredients into the dry as the kitchen-aid was on the lowest setting. Then, I put the batter into the fridge as I went to the store to get maple syrup.  I used 1/4-cup measuring cup to portion out the pancakes.  They were extremely fluffy, and delicious.


This made about 30 pancakes, so about 10 servings.  I froze leftovers for easy breakfast, but perhaps the recipe should be halved.  I ate my pumpkin pancakes with pure maple syrup and pomegranates (heated in the microwave).  Yum!





August 8 2015
mom and dad in jail

Picking mom and dad up from the town jail.

My parents and I are midway through our cross country road trip. I picked them up from the airport on Wednesday and we drove to Wichita Falls, TX. I had a grant deadline and a few paper reviews to write, so I set up a workstation for myself in the car, including a lapdesk, my laptop, a mouse, and tethering internet from my (well, Dave’s) iPad. From Wichita Falls, we went to Albequerque, NM and then onto Sedona, AZ. And now we are in the car heading to the Grand Canyon. I can’t say the same for my belongings though — they are sitting in Louisiana waiting for a driver still!

Favorite breakfast so far:
Coffee pot restaurant in Sedona, AZ.

Favorite lunch so far:
Mama’s fried chicken in some little twon in Louisiana … with fried oreos for dessert.

Favorite Dinner so far:
We had dinner with an amazing view at Four Winds Ranch just outside of Dallas, TX. I had steak tips wiht pasta. The food was great, but the atmosphere was amazing.

Favorite sight so far:
The petrified forest in Arizona, just east of Flagstaff.

mama's fried chicken

Dad tries a fried Oreo for the first time. He was in the middle of saying “ohh … this is good”

4W ranch

Sunset at Four Winds (4W) ranch in Texas.

Second Anniversary Adventures

June 1 2015

Today (1 June 2015), David and I celebrate our second anniversary.  Although we can’t spend this day together, we did spend an amazing weekend together, despite some travel-woes for David (sorry, Dave!)

On Saturday Afternoon, we went with Carola and Joe for a bike ride to Dresdrehan Plantation.  We started at the end of Williams in Kenner, and road our bikes for 8 miles to the plantation.  Right before the plantation, we passed the smelly, misty grain elevators.  Our first order of business was to take out our lunch so that we could eat and re-hydrate.  So, we did that on a small cement table in front of replica slave houses.  David said I over-packed in the morning, but all of the food was eaten before we returned to the cars that afternoon.

After lunch, we went on the tour.  For me, the highlight was the blacksmith giving me a mule shoe (when he offered to give it to us for free–I don’t think he expected us to actually take one).  We were asking questions about the process involved with making various things, and he was trying to sell us steak turners.  But, we walked away with a mule shoe.  Visiting the plantation was a neat experience.  Neither Dave nor I have been to one before.  Some of the stories the guides told us were repetitive (there were 5 guides in the tour), but I probably don’t remember much of anything said, repeated or not.


Oaks at the Plantation

Oaks at the Plantation

For dinner on Saturday night, we went to Doris, a steakhouse that I discovered when my parents were in town.  Due to a slight issue with our seats being given away, we walked across the street to grab a cocktail while we waited for the seats to become available.  And, boy, it was worth the wait.  Chef remembered me from my last visit to Doris and sent us a special slice of meat for an appetizer.  It was as rich as foi gras, and can’t be explained well with words.  We chose to have several appetizer (tuna tartare, calamari, and eggplant), as well as two sides (smoked vegetables and truffle french fries).  The difficulty came when we had to decide the main course.  So, we asked chef, who said he would look in the back for us and let us know what is best tonight (which happened to be the “classified cut”).  Every dish that came out was absolutely delicious.  My favorite was probably the tuna tartare.  The soy pearls + fresh tuna + ginger emulsion combination is a slice of heaven in your mouth.  When my niece Peyton was young, she used to dance when she liked the food she was eating. As we sat at the bar enjoying our dinner last night, we were both dancing in our seats.

Having good food is important, but what really puts Doris over the top is the excellent service.  Since we sat so close to where the wait staff would pick up their food, we were very familiar faces at the end of the night.  In conversation, we learned that one of the employees is from the town next to the one where Dave grew up, and another just moved here from Brookyln (where we will be moving).  Small world.  They were all so nice to us, and treated us like royalty.  The experience of our anniversary dinner was perfect.


Sunday was Oyster fest.  Our plans for getting up early and watching the oyster eating contest went by the wayside, but we went out on a hunt for a Bloody Mary.  We parked far away and biked to the Hilton, which had bloody marys with a bacon wrapped oyster last year.  When we learned that they didn’t have those again this year, we headed towards Daisy Duke’s via street car (completely unnecessary, as it was a 10 minute walk, 30 minute street car ride).  But, we had fun.  We planned to do take-out, but they had bottomless bloody marys, so we ordered some food to go along with the drinks while we waited for Joe and Carola to join us.

Daisy Duke Bloody Mary

At Oyster fest, we had enough time to get one round of food before it started to downpour.  We soon realized that riding our bikes back would not be an option.  So, when there was a break in the rain, we all walked back to Carola and Joe’s car, and they drove us to ours.  On the ride home through mid-city, I had to change my course of direction several times due to severe flash floods (later I learned that a taxi got stuck in one of the roads that I chose not to take).

Eventually, I did get David to the airport one hour early.  Unfortunately his second of two flights was cancelled due to weather and he is in Atlanta now for an unexpectedly long layover.  He hasn’t had much luck with traveling recently.  Hopefully that will change, as he has quite a few more trips planned for this summer.

EPILOGUE: I went to pick up the bikes after the flooding had subsided.  We parked in the garage next to the Hilton (the car valets told us about the bike racks in the garage).  So, I arrived to the Hilton and told the valet that I was there to pick up my bikes, and asked if I could just leave my car there for a minute so I can grab them.  He told me that I was parked in a loading zone, so I can’t stop there.  Instead, he suggested that I park right along the side of the garage … which I realized was a fire lane as I was pulling up.


May 30 2015

I waited to post this, as I wanted to give Endymion an opportunity to redeem themselves. They’ve failed. I emailed them on 18 February, and I have yet to hear from them. All I want is an apology.

Here is my unrequited letter to them:

Dear Mr. Muniz and the Endymion Krewe,

I attended the Endymion parade this year, catching it on St. Charles as the floats turned around Lee Circle. I really enjoyed the event, until float 32 arrived. I was pelted with a full bag of beads, right in my forehead. Someone from the top of the float (looking outside the circle) was the one who threw this bag, and they threw it really hard. I barely saw it coming before it hit me, as it came so fast. As I was falling down from the force, another bag of beads hit me. I cowered until the float passed, too scared to look up again. I would like to believe that this was not intentional, but the force with which it hit me, and the reaction of everyone around me, leads me to believe that this was thrown maliciously (and probably drunkenly).

Seconds after, I put my hand to my forehead to feel a lump protruding from my forehead. Immediately, we went into the bar to get ice to put on my head. After an hour of holding ice to my head, the single lump turned into what looked like a forehead of golf balls (picture). I had to keep ice on my forehead for two days, and it hurt to make any change of facial expression. This is not really how I wanted to spend my Mardi Gras weekend.

I would deeply appreciate a sincere apology.

All the best,


Ellen versus Matt Lauer: the Prank War (Sequentially)

April 29 2015

I was asked yesterday why I am so happy all the time, and I responded that it was because of yoga and practicing mindfulness. Then, I realized that’s not entirely true: I also watch Ellen. So, when I heard that my friend Darrell has not seen the Ellen Degeneris / Matt Lauer prank war, I decided to compile these clips from Ellen’s show, in sequential order.

Lifting the Corners of your Mouth

April 22 2015

When too many days go by without a trip to Swan River Yoga, it feels like ‘something is not right.’  A few months ago, during class, a yoga instructor said to “turn the corners of the mouth up.”  At the time, it was difficult for me to recognize which direction was up, so I made some strained expression on my face before I realized the “yoga pose” was to smile.  I really enjoyed the thought of smiling being a physical movement of muscles, rather than an uncontrollable response to something that made you happy.  Ever since then, I have tried to incorporate this new yoga pose into every practice.  In some poses, it is actually quite difficult.  In others, it helps redirect the focus.  But, it always enhances the experience of my yoga practice.

When I returned from a two-week trip, I practiced lifting the corners of my mouth during a yoga class with a new instructor.  At the end of class, she told me that she enjoyed watching me practice, as I was smiling so much … even in the hard poses.  That day, I probably had even more smiles than usual though, as I have been overwhelmed with love and support after letting everyone know that I will be starting a faculty position in Montana.

There is one person that has perfected this yoga move: my college roommate, Kathy.  She smiles.  Always smiles.  It took four years of living in the same room with her to differentiate her happy smile from her normal smile from her angry smile.  It’s all in the eyes.  The mouth remains constant.  My sister, who was about 8 when she first met Kathy, asked me “does she smile in her sleep?”  And, I can tell you that, yes, she smiles in her sleep.  But, she also dreams about swords and you don’t want to mess with her when she is dreaming about swords (as I did by accident one night … ).

Smiling is an act of happiness, but it also creates happiness.  So, don’t forget to smile!


A throwback to our junior year of college.


Even when she is wearing a mask, you can see that she is smiling.

Job Search is Over!

April 13 2015

Finally, I can announce to everyone: I will be starting a tenure-track faculty position in the CS department at Montana State University this Fall.  Really, it is a relief to have this decision over with.

The MSU Job Interview:

I arrived the night before my interview, and had to prepare my “teaching demo” between arriving at the hotel and going to bed.  (well, I started on the plane …)  Dave joined me in Bozeman, MT for the interview day.  During my talk, he sat in the second row.  It was really a happy feeling for him to be there with me.  There are several times in life where the practice of mindfulness is most apparent, and  job interviews is one of them.  I kept thinking to myself “this is my job interview, stay in the moment!”  This was my first interview, and I wasn’t sure if, or how many, more interviews would be extended to me.

My job interview consisted of the formal research talk, a 10-minute teaching demo, meeting with various faculty members, meeting with the dean, and (of course) going out to dinner.  My meeting with the dean went WAY over the scheduled time-slot.  And, when someone peeked into the office to let him know that there was a crowd of people waiting to meet with me, he responded “but I’m the dean!”  I guess that meeting went well.  :)

The members of the department were incredibly nice and went above and beyond making us welcome in Bozeman.  It just felt right, and so I am looking forward to joining this department in just a few months.  The hardest part about deciding to move to Bozeman, MT is that it is rather far away from Philly, NYC, and NOLA.

Other thoughts from the job hunt:

Not all interviews went as smoothly as the interview at MSU.  As expected, some CS folks have told me “why are you applying to CS departments, you are really a mathematician” and some Math folks told me “why are you applying to math departments, you are in computer science.”  When this question was asked, I always thought to myself, “will they be able to fairly evaluate me when I am evaluated for promotion and tenure?”  Probably not.

One interview, though, takes the cake.  The chair of the department said to me “you don’t have any children, so that won’t be a problem” and made comments about how I must come from a poor background since I qualified for the GAANN fellowship.  Another faculty member at that same university tried to intimidate me, saying that it is very strange that I have had any postdoc in CS, yet alone, two post-docs spanning three years.  The feeling I got there was a rather un-welcoming feeling.

So, starting this fall, I will be an assistant professor!  Now, I just need some graduate students and some big grants … feel free to send both students and money my way.

Robert Redford

One of the sights in Bozeman: stepping in Robert Redford’s shoeprints.

The Bus Stop

January 21 2015

Today I had a rather interesting experience waiting for the bus.  (I usually bike from my car to my office, but I brought in my electric tea kettle today, so I decided to take the bus).

A woman waiting for the bus comments that it is always late (I think — not my experience, it’s always very punctual … but then again, I usually don’t take it).  Trying to make conversation, I ask why the route has changed.  She explains that it is because so many people are taking it (again, not my experience), so they needed to start using bigger buses.  She then comments that it doesn’t seem like the buses are bigger though.  (what do I know about this one?)  She made some comment about how bad the traffic is and how she hates waiting for the bus and then waiting in traffic.  Again, this is not my experience.

For a few minutes, I was perplexed.  I think she was trying to be nice and make conversation, but everything just came across so negative.  And, I think this happens a lot when we have casual conversations with strangers.  For some reason, it’s easier to complain or to say something negative than it is to say something positive.  I wonder if I ever come across so negative … I hope not, but I’ll think twice about complaining about the weather next time it’s “almost” freezing outside.